Police arrested an Elmo, a Spider-Man and two men dressed as Iron Man in Times Square over the weekend as authorities posted fliers in the Crossroads of the World reminding tourists they don't have to pay for photos taken with the costumed characters.
The four men, who range in age from 25 to 40, were charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing pedestrian traffic; one was also charged with aggressive solicitation.
The arrests come amid mounting controversy over costumed characters in Times Square. The issue gained momentum two weeks ago when a man dressed as Spider-Man allegedly demanded more money from a tourist who had posed with him before growing belligerent with a police officer and then punching the cop.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has referred to the characters' wild behavior as Times Square's "Elmo issues."
In the last two years, a man dressed as Cookie Monster was charged with shoving a 2-year-old, a person attired in Super Mario's overalls was accused of groping a woman and an Elmo figure pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after unleashing an anti-Semitic tirade.
City Council is considering requiring licenses and background checks for costumed performers but copyright issues have held up final approval, since most of the costume wearers are not authorized by the characters' owners.
Mayor de Blasio endorsed the licensing plan, saying the characters had "gone too far."
Even those dressed as superheroes, he said, have to "play by the rules or you won't be working here any longer."